Voluntary self-touch increases body ownership
Experimental manipulations of body ownership have indicated that multisensory integration is central to forming bodily self representation. Voluntary self touch is a unique multisensory situation involving corresponding motor, tactile and proprioceptive signals. Yet, even though self-touch is frequent in everyday life, its contribution to the formation of body ownership is not well understood. Here we investigated the role of voluntary self touch in body ownership using a novel adaptation of the rubber hand illusion (RHI), in which a robotic system and virtual reality allowed participants self-touch of real and virtual hands. In the first experiment, active and passive self-touch were applied in the absence of visual feedback. In the second experiment, we tested the role of visual feedback in this bodily illusion. Finally, in the third experiment, we compared active and passive self-touch to the classical RHI in which the touch is administered by the experimenter. We hypothesized that active self-touch would increase ownership over the virtual hand through the addition of motor signals strengthening the bodily illusion. The results indicated that active self-touch elicited stronger illusory ownership compared to passive self-touch and sensory only stimulation, and show an important role for active self-touch in the formation of bodily self.